Risto Nurmela University Press of America 2006-09-14

Nurmela, an adjunct professor at Åbo Akademi University in Finland, identifies and discusses 126 alleged biblical allusions in Isaiah 40–66. He concludes, “the two writings most referred to are . . . the rest of the Book of Isaiah and Psalms” (p. 139). According to Nurmela, Isaiah 40–55 alludes to the Psalms more than any other book, while Isaiah 56–66 refers most often to earlier portions of Isaiah, especially chapters 40–55. And chapters 40–66 allude to the Pentateuch seventeen times.

Of course attempting to determine the presence of allusion can be tricky for a number of reasons. Recognizing lexical links is basic to the task, but how does one really know that the use of similar vocabulary is intentional? Furthermore one’s dating of the biblical materials will determine in which direction one sees the allusion working. Nurmela is aware of the challenges and lays out his method in an introductory chapter (see esp. pp. viii–ix).

In examining Nurmela’s alleged allusions the reviewer found his proposed intertextual links within Isaiah to be the most convincing, as one might expect (see, e.g., 35:10 and 51:11; 6:9–10 and 42:20; 40:10 and 62:10–11). Even so, there seem to be some glaring omissions. Why, for example, is the allusion to Isaiah 11:2 in 42:1 omitted? Both texts speak of the Lord’s spirit (jÆWr) being imparted to one who is responsible for establishing justice (note fP;v]mi in 42:1, 3–4; and fpæv; in 11:3–4). Or what of the intertextual link between 53:5 and 57:18–19 (both texts use ap;r:, “heal,” and µ/lv;, “peace,” in referring to Israel’s restoration)?

As for alleged allusions to texts outside of Isaiah, Nurmela makes several interesting proposals, some of which are more compelling than others. Several of the supposed lexical links seem to involve the use of idiomatic expressions or stock hymnic language, making it difficult to establish an intentional link. One also wonders why the obvious links between Isaiah 44 and Deuteronomy 32–33 go without mention (cf. Jeshurun in Deut. 32:15; 33:5, 26 and Isa. 44:2; as well as rWx, “rock,” in Deut. 32:4, 13, 15, 18, 30–31, 37 and Isa. 44:8). See Thomas A. Keiser, “The Song of Moses: A Basis for Isaiah’s Prophecy,” Vetus Testamentum 55 (2005): 486–500.